Despite the stereotype of the annoying salesperson who is always pestering you to buy something, the fact is that people want to do business with those who show exceptional follow up skills. While they don't want to be bullied or stalked for their business, they do want to work with a salesperson who takes the initiative to educate them, remind them, and keep them abreast of current offerings.
Unfortunately, most salespeople lack decent follow up skills. They may call or e-mail a prospect one time, but when they get no response, they give up and ultimately lose the sale. Why is this the norm? Because good follow up skills require good organizational skills, and most salespeople are confused on how to stay organized. They haven't found the right tool that works for them, and they haven't figured out their own follow-up techniques.
Since they haven't even thought of becoming organized, they don't have a system that works for them. And if they do have a tool, such as when a sales manager dictates that everyone will use certain contact management software, they don't know how to use it effectively...and their results suffer.
However, these days there's really no excuse for not following up. With all the technology and paper reminder systems available, everyone should be a follow-up master by now. The key is to know what works for you and to use it consistently. In fact, when you pick a system and use it, you can quickly become a follow up extraordinaire.
The Value of a System
Why is having a system in place so important? Consider this scenario: You promise prospect A that you will get back with him in two days. Rather than put the follow-up reminder in some sort of follow-up system, you rely on your short-term memory. Two days come and go, and you never follow up. A week later, Prospect A moves on to another company and another salesperson who does follow up, and Prospect A ends up spending a lot of money with your competition.
In order to get the sale, as soon as you promise to follow up with someone, you need to stop what you're doing and jot down, type or speak into your calendar the correct day and time to make the follow up. If you do that with every promise you make to someone, you can dramatically increase your sales in one year. People will be so impressed with your impeccable use of time that they will refer all their friends and family to you.
The biggest mistake you can make is believing you will definitely remember your promises. Don't fool yourself; no one is that good. The reason you can't leave anything to your memory is not because you don't mean well; rather, other factors come up and other situations transpire that distract your focus.
Once your mind is diverted to a new situation, it is highly unlikely you will remember that previous detail. Most likely, you will simply forget to call Prospect A, but three days later at 4 a.m. you will wake up in a sudden scare and remember that you forgot to follow up as promised.
That's why all salespeople need some sort of follow-up system in place.
Tools You Can Use
The first step to creating a follow-up system that works is to know your personal style. You then have to understand how to integrate that style into your company's culture and existing systems. The following tips will help:
Know Yourself. Are you a techie? Do you love writing things out by hand? Are verbal reminders more effective for you than visual ones? Since each person is different, it's completely normal for each person to have a different preferred follow up system. For example, some people are pen and paper people, even though technology is everywhere. They love to write and erase and highlight and handle physical pieces of paper. Other people are techno kings and queens who thrill at watching their iPhone screen move at the flick of a finger from page to page. Whichever technique you prefer, that's the one that will make you excellent at the art of follow up.
Experiment. Once you understand your personal style, experiment with the various tools available. The most common follow up tools are:
- Microsoft outlook (or other software system) calendar
- Blackberry calendar
- iPhone calendar
- Daytime planner
- Sticky notes
Pick one and try it out. If you hate it or don't use it consistently, then try something else. Be open to new things. And remember that just because you love online activities and are a computer whiz doesn't mean your follow up system has to be high tech. You can have one low tech area of your life. Whatever you choose, just make sure it works for YOU.
Combine and Conquer. If necessary, use a combination of methods. For example, perhaps you like using sticky notes. You use a particular color sticky note for the various activities, and your computer monitor looks like one giant rainbow flower. Each time you complete a task and peel off the sticky note, you get a sense of satisfaction. But because you don't want to carry multiple pads of sticky notes with you on sales calls, you rely on your iPhone calendar to schedule reminders while you're out in the field. Then when you come back to the office at day's end, you transfer the information to your sticky notes method.
You may also need to use a combination method if your company requires you to use a certain system that doesn't work for you. For instance, if your company requires that you use ACT! so they can track your activity, but you're a pen and paper kind of person, you can use your paper system during the day and transfer your notes to the computerized system at night for tracking purposes. This may seem like you're running two systems at once, but sometimes it takes a tag-team approach to get the job done.
The Success is in the Follow Up
The bottom line is to know what your preferred tool is and then to go all the way with it. Very soon you'll become addicted to whatever tool you implement and you'll wonder how you ever got along without it. That's when your own personal organizational systems will start to develop, and your sales will increase.
Ultimately, when you're organized and using a system you like, your confidence level will increase, which will be evident in your sales approach. You'll no longer feel like a failure because you forgot to follow up with someone. Rather, your prospects will view you as a credible and reliable salesperson with exceptional follow up skills, and they'll reward you by giving you the business you so rightly deserve.
Judy Garmaise, CSW, is a corporate trainer and professional speaker with a master's degree from Columbia University. With more than 25 years of experience in sales, management and customer service, Judy provides training on "Follow Up" - her system of increasing profitability and success, while maintaining integrity and trust. She is also working on the forthcoming book, "The Power of Follow Up." To hire her for your next keynote or event, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: (561) 445-9955.